The Estonian capital directly on the Baltic Sea is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe and is definitely underestimated as a travel destination – wrongly so! There are few cities in Eastern Europe that are so beautiful and easy to visit. It is not for nothing that the old town has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. On top of that, the city offers a small but fine Christmas market that makes the hearts of Christmas fans beat faster. 💝
Welcome to Tallinn or “Tere tulemast”! 👋
Upon our arrival, the city welcomed us with dark clouds and icy cold. So cap on and off to the old town! The city center was not far from our accommodation. Arriving there we felt as if we had traveled back to the Middle Ages in a time machine.⏳😯 The townscape is characterized by small, crooked houses, bumpy streets, narrow and winding alleys, and colorful house facades. Everything is surrounded by a city wall with defense towers. 🏰 Jugglers, guards, and market criers walk across the town hall square. Maids in old robes sell roasted almonds and Glögi, the Estonian mulled wine. Did someone say mulled wine? We immediately tested a mug and warmed up under the magical lights of the city – that’s where the Christmas spirit comes in.🍷
Tip: Glögi is alcohol-free. But of course, you can also order it with a shot.😃 The national Vana Tallinn liqueur is ideal for this. To be honest, this liqueur has not really much in common with the German understanding of liqueur. It is relatively strong when unmixed, as it is a mixture of Jamaican rum, vanilla, cinnamon, and lemon. But you can test it excellently in mulled wine.👌
Walk through the city 👣
The old town (Vanalinn) is the heart of Tallinn. It houses the most important sights, which are protected by the city wall. The city is small and compact and you can easily explore it on foot.🚶 Despite its tranquil size, you should plan more than one day there so that you can let the city take effect on you and just let yourself drift through the alleys.
We started our city walk on the central town hall square. Around the town hall square, you will find historical fairytale houses and in the wintertime the lovely Christmas market.🎅 In the northeastern part of the square, there is one of the oldest pharmacies in the world, which is still open since 1422. In the back part of the pharmacy, there is an exhibition with all kinds of old medical things and pharmacy utensils. Just drop by and admire the old things. 🏥💉
Tip: St. Catherine’s Passage (Katariina Käik) is only a two-minute walk from the town hall square. The small alley is home to the St. Catherine’s Guild, a group of artists who produce and sell traditional handicrafts. Watch them at their work (making ceramics, glass, jewelry) and buy a small souvenir.💎 You can recognize the passage by its extraordinary stone arches, which create a medieval atmosphere.
To the east of the town is the Gate Viru värava, which consists of two picturesque towers with the adjacent town wall. The town wall extends to the south to the watchtower Kiek in de Kök. Some parts of the wall are still accessible today. A short walk is highly recommended because from up there you have a good view of the city and can take great pictures. 📸
Just above the tower, Kiek in de Kök is the magnificent Alexander Nevsky Cathedral with its huge onion domes. ⛪ It is Estonia’s largest Russian Orthodox cathedral and attracts many visitors because of its beauty. Nearby you will also find the Danish King’s Garden, where scary monk statues are displayed. There you can warm up with a Glögi. 😃
Tip: your mobile data is used up and you would like to look something up on the Internet? No problem at all, because in Estonia every citizen has the right to an Internet connection, so there is free access to WiFi in the whole city, even on the beach. 😎 It’s funny, where else do multimedia modernity and medieval tradition come together?
At the southern end of the Old Town, there is also Freedom Square, where St. John’s Church and the Independence War Victory Column are located, with which the Estonians celebrate their victory in the fight against the Soviet Union.
St. Olav’s Church, the highest building in the country, is enthroned above the city. It used to serve as a church and also as a lighthouse. You have a perfect view of the sea from up there and can watch the big ferries leaving. 🛳
Tip: Tallinn is only a stone’s throw away from Scandinavia. If you have enough time, I recommend a day trip to Helsinki, because you can reach Finland’s capital easily in two hours by ferry. 👍 Since we were only in Tallinn for three days and didn’t have this information in advance, we postponed our plans until next time.
If you want to make another detour to the sea, I recommend that you combine with a visit to Kadriorg Park. There you will find beautiful avenues, flower beds, ponds with pavilions, and the magnificent Kadriorg Palace and the Presidential Palace. 🌸 Even in winter, it is worth a trip there.
Feasting and drinking in Tallinn 🍺
Basically, Tallinn is not an overly expensive city. Although the prices in the restaurants are now in line with Western European standards, they are really great, especially in the price-performance ratio. The service is excellent and the staff always tries hard. 😊 (The waiters sometimes write something nice on your bill. Surely also to get a little more tip, but why not?) The food, in general, was extremely delicious, so I definitely want to share some experiences with you.
In Tallinn, you can often find hearty home cooking and strong beer culture. 🍻 This is also the case in III Draakon, a medieval-style restaurant. It is smaller and less touristy than the big Olde Hanse, which already attracts tourists to the restaurant outside (we are generally not very fond of such things, so we chose the more authentic restaurant for us). 🗡 Everything shines in candlelight, food, and drinks are served in clay jugs and the staff wears traditional costumes, just like in the Middle Ages. 🕯Besides, it is really cheap there, a bowl of soup costs just 2,50€. The III Draakon is really an experience! 😍
If you prefer an upscale cuisine that is both very tasty and reasonably priced, you should go to Väike Rataskaevu 16. The dishes are well designed and the service is very nice. 🍲
The bar “Labor” should not be missing in your evening planning. The concept is really cool. As the name suggests, the bar is designed as a laboratory in neon light. The drinks are served in test tubes and measuring cups. 🍸 The cocktails and shots taste good and the bar is not only an experience for chemistry freaks. Be sure to stop by here!
Tallinn Christmas Paradise 🎅
Just before we reached the old town, the cute festively decorated Christmas train came ringing in our direction. 🔔 It takes a little tour through the old town and fills the people with joy and happiness.
You cannot miss the Tallinn Christmas market, which is said to be one of the best Christmas markets in Europe, because it is located directly on the town hall square. In the middle is a huge lighted Christmas tree, which makes the square look magical, especially in the dark. 🎄 It is magnificently decorated and creates the right atmosphere. By the way, the children also hang little messages with their Christmas wishes on the tree. A really lovely idea! 💌
We had the feeling that the Estonians radiated an incredible calm on the Christmas market. There is a cozy serenity, unlike in Germany, where you are sometimes reminded of a stressful Christmas time.🙊
At the Christmas market, there is a lot of handmade goods like scarves, socks, gloves, soaps, wooden products, matryoshka, sausages, Christmas balls, and chocolate.🍫 In addition to the Glögi, which I have already mentioned several times, you will of course also find all kinds of goodies at the Christmas market. The offered food is very hearty, such as stew, sausages, sauerkraut.🌭
Tip: Are you still looking for a nice souvenir and didn’t find anything suitable at the Christmas market? Then take a look at one of the pretty souvenir stores. They offer some curiosities and medieval accessories.🏺
Tallinn Summary 💝
Tallinn could totally enchant us during the Christmas season. ✨ There was no snow, but the temperatures were icy and made a real Christmas feeling possible. I think that many people don’t even know how beautiful the old town and the Christmas market is because otherwise, I can’t explain that there were so few tourists there. 💁 But hey, it’s best to get going to this wonderful city quickly, because that way you can let the lights, sights, and stores take effect on you in peace! 😃